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Smuts Memorial Fund


Smuts Visiting Research Fellow 2014-15

The Smuts Visiting fellowship at the University of Cambridge in 2014-2015 allowed me to spend a rewarding year at this vibrant place. My stay in Cambridge was academically productive, socially and personally very satisfying for three specific reasons. First, I found that moving away from our home and area of work was most helpful because we had few distractions. Yet, the Cambridge surroundings meant we were close to our pleasure of researching and writing with easy access to the library and to my affiliated departments. I was able to make significant progress toward completing my second book, Parallel Publics: A New History of Indian Democracy. The Smuts fellowship enabled me to finish four chapters of my new book by giving necessary time to engage with my vast collection of Hindi language sources which I had collected during my India fieldwork in 2008-2009. The valuable time and a new body of sources presented me with the right opportunity to incorporate new discussion on South Asian themes such as popular religious forms, democratic spatial practices, and the vernacular literary studies into my work. I was able to give concrete shape to my book manuscript, in the form chapters, due to several lecture invitations. Because I was based in Cambridge, I gave ten talks during the year which enabled me to discuss several aspects of my new work with a new audience in UK and Europe.

Second, as a fellow in the Centre of South Asian Studies, a dynamic intellectual space, afforded me a perfect place to develop and exchange many of my chapter ideas. I participated and greatly benefitted from the bountiful activities at the Centre, the weekly seminars, numerous discussions with graduate students, and the post-doctoral fellows. I personally found the weekly seminars at the Centre of South Asian Studies extremely enriching and at times not surprisingly very helpful to my work. I was very also very fortunate to discuss my work with colleagues in my field who were generous with their time and comments. I greatly profited from a thriving intellectual community of South Asian scholars and graduate students in Cambridge.

Third, our decision to live in the college accommodation was the right choice. We were pleased to find a nice house in the college campus which was ten minute walk to most places, such as, the University library, the history department, and the Centre of South Asian Studies. Our residence in the college gave us access to a well knit community and provided access to lively social and cultural life. We were able to participate in various activities organized by the college which gave us the opportunity to meet other families and build new friendships.

From the point of my research agendas and priorities, Smuts Visiting fellowship presented us a perfect opportunity. One of the things I greatly enjoyed was the unmatched benefits of a sabbatical at a university without the corresponding responsibilities of teaching and administration. From the point of view of my family, they had a worthwhile time in Cambridge. We returned home after a satisfying stay and with finished projects.